Baby Bottle Tooth Decay Facts


Baby teeth are critical, and having healthy ones can lead to healthy teeth in adulthood. While permanent teeth will eventually replace baby teeth, they are still prone to decay and cavities, leading to oral health problems in the long run. Besides, if your baby loses her baby teeth too soon, the teeth left may move and not leave any space for permanent teeth to come in. And if tooth decay isn’t prevented, it can be expensive to treat, cause pain, and other life-threatening infections.

Tooth decay is also known as early childhood caries, and it’s the most common chronic childhood infectious disease. This condition is also known as baby bottle tooth decay or nursing bottle caries. So, you should start healthy baby dental habits early since tooth decay can develop as soon as your baby’s first tooth comes in. Here is more information for parents and caregivers on the causes, signs, and prevention of baby bottle tooth decay.

What Is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay in babies
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Understanding this condition is the first step to avoiding it. According to Colgate, baby bottle tooth decay happens when infants and toddlers get tooth decay, particularly in the upper front teeth.

The leading cause is constant exposure to sugary drinks. Your baby is likely to get tooth decay if she frequently drinks anything other than water from her bottle or sippy cup during the day or night. So, only serve milk with meals and not throughout the day, at naptime, or bedtime. Although frequent and extended nursing alone doesn’t lead to tooth decay, all nursing moms should know and follow oral hygiene, a healthy diet, and preventive dental care recommendations.

Another cause is putting your baby to bed with a bottle or when you use a bottle as a pacifier when she gets fussy. The American Academy of Pediatrics adds that coating teeth in almost any liquid other than water for long periods can also cause decay. And since tooth decay is a disease, it can also be passed down by a mom or primary caregiver through saliva containing cavity-causing bacteria.

For example, if a mom puts the baby’s pacifier or feeding spoon in her mouth, she could likely pass the bacteria to the infant. Finally, moms need to be aware of fluoride recommendations because if your baby doesn’t receive enough amounts of fluoride, she may also have a higher risk for tooth decay. However, the good news is that all of this is preventable.

RELATED: Spotting Tooth Decay In Toddlers

Signs Of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Check for decay signs on your baby’s gum line, especially on her upper front teeth, where you may notice white spots. However, it may be difficult to spot these signs without proper equipment because your baby has small teeth. So, it’s advisable to take your baby to the dentist or pediatrician at six months, which is when their teeth start to grow. That way, you can get clearer details on how to care for your infant’s new teeth and prevent any early decay right from the get-go. However, issues may arise should decay start affecting your little one’s teeth. Decay may cause:

  • Pain and discomfort in the mouth, potential expensive dental care or emergency care in the long run.
  • Infections that could cause other health issues.
  • Permanent teeth damage or losing the space required for them to grow in.

And while all of this sounds scary, don’t worry. Decay is preventable and treatable.

Prevention & Treatment Of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

What causes baby bottle tooth decay
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Here’s how to prevent decay:

  • Take care of your oral health even during pregnancy by going for dental check-ups.
  • Mouth Healthy advises against sharing saliva with the baby through licking pacifiers or using their feeding spoons. Wipe your baby’s gum using a damp, clean washcloth or gauze pad after every feeding.
  • Once your baby’s teeth come in, maintain basic dental hygiene. Brush them gently using a child-sized brush and a rice-grain-sized fluoride toothpaste until 3. When she turns 3, use a pea-sized paste amount until she’s 6.
  • Only put breast milk, formula, or milk in bottles. Avoid putting sugary drinks in bottles.
  • Make sure infants finish their nap time and bedtime drinks before bedtime.
  • Avoid dipping pacifiers in honey or sugar.
  • Encourage healthy eating habits. Limit the number of sweet or sticky foods your baby eats, including cookies, gummies, crackers, chips, etc.
  • Serve juice only at mealtime or not at all.
  • Encourage baby to drink from a cup by her first birthday.
  • Avoid using a sippy cup as a pacifier.
  • If your baby has baby bottle tooth decay, take her to the dentist, who will determine how to treat it, depending on how severe it is.

Sources: Colgate, Mouth Healthy, The American Academy of Pediatrics,

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